Pundit Q&A: David Prutton previews the U21 European Championships
Ones to watch, tournament prediction, England focus and what Gareth Southgate will want to see
Last Updated: 16/06/19 10:19am
Sky Sports presenter and former England U21 international David Prutton looks ahead to the U21 European Championships, live on Sky Sports.
Every game during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship will be shown live on Sky Sports with Prutton hosting the action alongside pundits Liam Rosenior and Andy Hinchcliffe while Martin Tyler will be providing commentary on all England's matches.
Poland's clash with Belgium kicks off the tournament on Sunday June 16, with hosts Italy getting their campaign underway later that evening against Spain in Bologna.
England open their campaign against France in Cesena on Tuesday June 18.
Here, we pose some questions to Prutton....
Q: Which teams are you looking forward to watching?
Prutton says: Spain - four time winners of the U21 Euros - are always dangerous at youth tournaments and play the game in the right way, spearheaded by a very imaginative midfield who are very talented. Their progress will be defined in a fantastic opening game with hosts Italy in Bologna.
The host nation have lots of reasons to believe that the trophy will be staying there as they have some very exciting players at their disposal, including Moise Kean and midfielder Sandro Tonali, who has been linked with Liverpool.
Of course, it will be fascinating to see how England cope with the rigours of tournament football. They are certainly good enough to win it and hopefully the nation gets behind the lads. There seems a new found belief within the youth teams about not just gaining experience from playing in tournaments but also heading there with a focus to win it.
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Q: What players should we be paying close attention to?
Prutton says: A lot of eyes will be on Luka Jovic for Serbia - and rightly so. He's got everything you want from a top-class attacking player; pace, power and clinical finishing ability. Real Madrid know a player when they see one. He's already scored goals for the senior national team so this will be a step down in level for him which makes him a dangerous prospect. He could single-handedly carry Serbia through the tournament.
Frenchman Houssem Aouar came onto my radar when Lyon beat Manchester City in the Champions League last season. Even Pep Guardiola said he was "incredible" that night - that's one way to boost your ego! For those that haven't seen him, he's a midfielder full of quality and high levels of technical ability - a bit Zinedine Zidane-like.
Dani Ceballos won the Player of the Tournament in 2017 for Spain and is back, undoubtedly an even better player considering he's been playing at Real Madrid after they purchased him after that impressive tournament showing. He's yet to really break into the first-team picture in Spain but this might be an opportunity for him to showcase himself, especially if there are scouts watching him potentially from the Premier League.
Q: How will England fare?
Prutton says: England are favourites for good reason. I see no reason why Aidy Boothroyd's men can't go all the way. I think they'll make the final, then it's all about keeping your composure in a one-off game. Winning is a habit and this group have done plenty of it, going almost two years unbeaten is a magnificent feat at any level of football. This team will be heading to Italy with a focus of winning the trophy - anything less will be seen as a disappointment in their eyes. I like that way of thinking. Positivity can take you a long way.
Q: Who will be England's key man?
Prutton says: All of the squad will need to play their part in order to take England all the way but the quality of James Maddison will be crucial. He's good enough for the team to be built around him if Aidy Boothroyd wants to go down that road. His talent is pretty unique as he's an out and out No10 who must be a dream to play with as he can handle the ball in any situation and links midfield with attack brilliantly. He could really announce himself to the watching world.
Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ryan Sessegnon all are capable of lighting up the tournament too.
Q: Gareth Southgate will be watching - what will he want to see?
Prutton says: I'm sure Southgate will have particular attention on England's midfield and how well the players cope at moving the ball through the lines at pace. The England senior side aren't far away from being a top international team - but the midfield area is holding them back slightly, especially in terms of someone that can keep possession in tight areas. Foden and Mount both are very exciting in that regard. I'm sure they're not too far away from a senior call-up - a strong tournament will only boost their case. They are the future. I'm excited to see how those two and the Young Lions get on.
All the ways to watch...
Every game during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship will be shown live on Sky Sports.
Sky Sports subscribers will also be able to stream the games via the Sky Sports app or the Sky Go app.
Non-subscribers can watch all the action through NOW TV. A Sky Sports day pass is available for £8.99, a week pass for £14.99 or a month pass for £33.99. NOW TV can be streamed through a computer or apps.